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Anthony Robinson

Anthony Robinson has good teeth despite not having been to a dentist since 1993. He teaches composition to college freshmen, and moonlights as a call center slave. He divides his time between indoors and out. His poems and essays have been published in Able Muse, Lynx: A Journal for Linking Poets, SLIDE, Good Foot, Gumball Poetry, The Horsethief's Journal, Re:Verse!, Pif, Gravity, Tintern Abbey, The Alsop Review, and several other print and web journals. 



Just Like Yesterday

Today's peculiar reveille: starling-song, police
sirens, has nothing on my lover's snore-
snored far off, halfway across the continent.
The lawn needs mowing, the lease

on this old place will soon expire-it's down
to the, well, the thin pulled filament, that is,
these bills in piles (leaves?) left on the counter
are due. No check. The faucet drips. The town

remains untouched by global foibles: no accord,
no peace-the West bank's up for grabs. Highest
bidders bid, my coffee drips more slowly now.
I write two letters, tack a clipping on the board,

and hope by noon the sun will blaze-then drop.
This tired haze-long in coming-won't burn off.

© Anthony Robinson


DMZ

Suppose we won the war, I mean-suppose 
the faded khakis on your bed

earned their holes knees down in loamy soil
in some French dictator's garden-

suppose we pulled apart their machines
like loaves of clingy bread. Suppose we ate the yeast.

Do you remember coming home, hands
cracked and dingy, a sack of turnips slung across

your back? or the starling on your back porch, fallen 
there from nowhere-fallen from now and here-beak

wedged open, clamoring for your hand?
Suppose last night is a tremendous garden-the troops march

through quite unaware of our history 
they're trampling underfoot. Suppose this poem

is a narrative of the unfinished: a telephone that ceases
mid-ring, the garden gone to seed, the dumb small bird

that took you for its mother. Suppose we crossed
the culture line somewhere and in our haste, forgot

our compass on the bedside stand. Suppose this room
forgets as well, and each time I entered you, your voice

your trembling torso, bore the weight of a soldier, 
a gardener, and celebrated what we shall assume:

our complicity in this unfolding throws
a shadow on the page. Perhaps the poem forgets-

Just suppose our eyes are closed. 

© Anthony Robinson


Summer Song

June just now broken through-
early evening, half-
way to darkness, one step back 

from twilight-the hard
features of the year obscure. 
An unelicited wind

flies in on fractured wings. Broken 
and alive, angels step 
out from pinkish houses, lick

fingers, lean back on door jambs. 
More time than we need, 
one thinks-and this hour is tarnished-

Bonfires back the sky. Off, beyond 
the mountain, the city pushes out 
of the ground, rises and settles into the black night.

© Anthony Robinson


Scene from the Central Valley, 1979

On a shelf, in a shed
adjacent to an off-white house,

a Mason jar of sour cherries
rests-dusty, the color of putty

or the cracked-open inner length
of a number two pencil.

*

The past is split apart-sweeter
with the passage of twenty years:

look closely or you'll miss the dark 
hard core,

the precise parabola on the lime-
green engineer's pad.

© Anthony Robinson


Currency

The girl with the trust fund and the newly-recovered
past has come to retrieve her futon from my girlfriend's
apartment, where we've been storing

it, rent-free for what seems like an entire
summer, and what is. Obsidian-hued birds are here, 
gathering on the balcony, scratching the well-

worn wood with their tiny crow's-feet,
clawed and sharp. And the man who owns
the joint is here as well-his eyes are greyish-blue,

his skin like wrapping paper. We talk
about the recent construction: road-work,
polished beams and bits of light 

that find their way through windows here-
we end with the exchange of keys, agree
to meet for coffee over news or poems

or whatever passes for a shared interest
these days, which is to say he's much
older than me, and she, well she's too earnest. The man 

leaves, we lock the doors and pass this new currency
from mouth to mouth-shiny things that buy
(with boxtops) treasure from Battle Creek,

MI, lip gloss, a blue blanket unraveling-but I forget 
I'm standing in front of a peeling apartment, not the house
of breakfast cereal, huge coiled garden

hoses and shiny garter snakes. The man
is gone. The girl is a sleek, mysterious 
memory. Our exchange rate has slowed

to zero. I pick up a handful of flat stones, pour
them into my pocket, walk down the pot-holed
street and skip stones across that river,

you know the one-where everyone goes
when time has grown obsolete, the one with green
water, the one where I soak my feet all afternoon.

© Anthony Robinson


Ars Poetica

It's a paean to process, this line of thought pursued--
point A to point B with a stop-off in Albuquerque,
(said like Bugs Bunny, "Albukoikee," said like one
really means it.) So destination is what we're after,

that is, what we take the backseat to on the way 
there, that is, what we play second fiddle to on our long
road trip. That is to say, I've considered the arc, have
concluded it's a bit off center--the Xs and Ys for one,

don't line up. "Write a poem," said the bugbear 
at the end of the table. Explain how the seeing mind 
works, unravel the lively surface of the folded grey
pantheon--gods in your head, it said, gods not dead

but sleeping off a fin de siecle drunk. Kiss me, said
the girl who didn't mean it when I was 22 and still 
unsure about writing it all down. Here, drink this, 
said a schoolmarm, touch my face, circle my waist,

here, wash this part. Watch me. She pinned down
my arms. I couldn't reach for the legal pad by the bed,
something about a country's weapons, auspicious tools
for savvy impresarios and aficionados of the sousaphone--

yes! it's a march! Listen to the inside--no, be inside
the drum, press your brown and pink palms to the skin
stretched tight on the surface. Vibrate wildly, then move
back home. Your family has missed you. How to build

it? Start back at the beginning--add a charred fragment,
remember your old roommate, the girl with a bright silver
bar through her nipple, the girl who chanted Emily Dickinson
in the kitchen, who succumbed to a deadly brand of Buddhism,

deemed by her father "Woody Allenism" for its insistence
on worrying and self-doubt? Remember the hotel room
in New Mexico, the Gideon Bibles, the whir and clunk 
of the ice machine seven doors down, remember thinking

god! this is all going into my novel! The fictional collective
assembles outside your door, standing in the rain, half-
dressed, half-aware of your intent to rhyme them, sort them
by first letter and medial sounds. They drink soda and look

rather bored. One, a bosomy blond, wears a t-shirt 
declaring "pathos." Her friend, a frumpy nurse, carries
a paddle emblazoned with "verb"--the rest of them, 
though...a really boring bunch. Or so it seems. Rise

up from the chair (I know it's soft), turn off the television,
put a pen in your breast pocket, drop some chalk
in a knapsack and stock up on hotel stationery. Go outside,
meet the actors. A cast party. A kiss. A marvelous poem.

© Anthony Robinson


Fugue

They were discussing improvisation:
the play of shadow in an empty concert hall,

leaves that don't rustle but tumble
gently past a window without a tree, the three

blind men with tails and top hats,
who chase a dog-eared cat through an alley

where the mountains opened up (years ago,
you understand) into a verdant valley,

and other things-the timed whistle
of the white tea kettle, "Old fashioned, I know,"

she said deliberately, and with a smile,
while opening the window, then kicking off her shoes.

They sat like that, her foot in his lap, curled
toes, shrimplets, in place of the usual cat (presently rooting

in the dumpster for discarded seafood). And between
their words and his finger on her face-a high-arched fermata:

the smooth, firm arch of her tender foot,
an indelible pause where time for a moment

was liquid. Is liquid. And how did she know?
We sat like that for a long while, before the music

started up again, before she tugged the strings
on the drapes: the final, sweetest measure.

© Anthony Robinson


Take Out

I do not want you

to go
could mean 
and does: 

I want you 

in here with me, 
I want
to be inside 

as well, not to enjoy 

later, 
heated, rewarmed
with recollections 

of the first time I took you out
but now,
the sweet of you, 
the spice,

and the bright green sign 

across the street,
denotes:
more wonderful than 

fresh vegetable, seafood, noodle,

and you are gone. An hour 
later, hunger 
and you in a green dress,

stumble into my kitchen.

© Anthony Robinson


On Blood

Strewn, the word blown open,
stunned, alive and sticking to the story
given us, rationed out, apportioned

by another, it catches under the lip--
these things are bloody. Inner and outer,
the walking dead, lift the wounded 

from the tip of the pointed stick, a wagging
tongue leaves trails on the surface 
of the world, forming half-selves, unsung

conspirators. And in the center of the room,
one watches, palms upturned. A drop, 
then a trickle, stains the floor. He revolves,

grabs a broom, begins the long sweeping,
putting back, stuffing the mined vein, 
reconcentrating the attack.

© Anthony Robinson


Hay Fever
for Don Taylor

He's more allergic this year than ever-
When he first met the girl he was nervous;
now he sneezes at her. It's hot outside and windy.

They drink warm wine and trade poetry cards. 
I'll give you my 62 Ashbery for your special 
edition suicide Plath. She shakes her head. He sniffles.

June is one bad sonofabitch. This valley, I mean,
this valley is a magnet. A black hole. No one ever 
leaves. Kleenex is cheap though and beer cures loneliness.

Laminated notebooks hang, crooked on the stucco
walls. If you are afraid, grab a grease pencil
and write it in the book. Close your eyes. It will go.

Sex is simple and math, well math, is fabulous! Special
effects abound: I hang my panties on your f(x), place
my tongue between your g(x). Just like that. Achoo!

© Anthony Robinson